Beach Birds

Australian Pelican

The Australian Pelican’s most characteristic feature is its elongated bill with massive throat pouch. The bill has a small hook at the tip and is serrated inside to hold onto slippery fish. It plunges its bill into the water and once something is caught, the pouch is emptied of water. It then manoeuvres the prey so its head is pointing down its throat and with a jerk of the head the prey is swallowed.

Their life span is between 10 and 25 years.

Black Swan

The Black Swan is the only entirely black-coloured swan in the world.

Outside the breeding season, the Black Swan travels quite large distances, flying at night and resting during the day with other swans.

The Black Swan is a vegetarian, feeding on algae and weeds which it obtains by plunging its long neck into water up to 1m deep. Occasionally it will graze on land, but is a clumsy walker. Birds pair for life, with both adults raising one brood per season. The chicks are able to swim and feed themselves as soon as they hatch.

Caspian Tern

Crested Tern

The Crested Tern is often seen perching with gulls on beaches, sand spits or jetties. It feeds mainly on small surface fish, plunging downwards into the water to grab prey. They will also take squid, crabs, insects and other aquatic prey. The breeding season runs from November to March. Crested Terns nest in colonies ranging from a few to thousands of pairs on low offshore islands, often with other terns or gulls.

Pacific Gull

The Pacific Gull is Australia’s largest gull and is found only along the coasts of southern Australia.

It prefers sandy, or less often, rocky coasts and sandy beaches. It usually avoids human habitation but is occasionally seen on farmland and rubbish tips near the coast but rarely inland.

The bird forages along the coasts between the high-water mark and shallow water on sandy beaches, feeding mainly on molluscs, fish, birds and other marine animals.

Pied Cormorant

The Pied Cormorant is found in marine habitats and mainly feeds on fish, but will also take crustaceans and molluscs. Like other cormorants, it catches prey underwater, by diving and swimming using its large, fully webbed feet for propulsion.

As their feathers are not waterproof, cormorants are regularly seen perched with their wings outstretched to dry after fishing.

Pied Oystercatcher

The Pied Oystercatcher is black with a white breast and belly with a bright orange-red bill, red legs and a red eye. It is shy of humans and seldom allows close approach.

It can typically be seen probing the sand or mud with its long bill in search of sandworms, molluscs or crabs, sometimes hammering at their shells. The young birds are one of the few waders that are fed by their parents using this specialised feeding technique.

Red-capped Plover

The Red-capped Plover has often been sighted along Taperoo Beach on the sand and seagrass. It forages for molluscs and small crustaceans by using a characteristic ‘stop-run-peck’ method, taking small invertebrates from the surface.

Its nest site is a shallow scrape, nearly always close to water, and sometimes protected by a small plant or some rubbish. Please tread carefully as their eggs are small and well camouflaged. These birds are endangered at Taperoo.

Silver Gull

A common bird, the Silver Gull is found at virtually any watered habitat. They flock in high numbers around fishing boats around the coast, but seldom venture far out to sea. They have become a successful scavenger, readily pestering humans for scraps or pilfering from unattended food containers. Other food includes worms, fish, insects and crustaceans.

Since the 1950s, society has become increasingly wasteful, and with this increased availability of food in the form of refuse, the population of Silver Gulls has exploded.

Sooty Oystercatcher

The Sooty Oystercatcher is the only all-black shorebird in Australia and is strictly coastal, usually found within 50m of the ocean. It prefers rocky shores, but will be seen on coral reefs or sandy beaches near mudflats.

It drinks seawater and feeds on molluscs, crabs and other crustaceans, marine worms, starfish and sea urchins, and small fish. It uses its long bill to stab at prey or to lever, prise or hammer open food items.

Whiskered Tern

The Whiskered Tern is migratory and nomadic, widely distributed throughout the mainland when not breeding. It eats mainly small fish, amphibians, crustaceans, insects and their larvae and feeds by three main methods: plunging (diving), dipping (skimming the surface of water) and hawking (taking insects on the wing).

A whole colony of Whiskered Terns will quickly fly to mob or attack a predator or intruder, including humans.

Large numbers migrate into Indonesia and South-East Asia, mainly via the Top End.

White Faced Heron

White Faced Herons are the most commonly seen herons in Australia and may be found anywhere where there is water.

It feeds on a wide variety of prey, including fish, insects and amphibians. Food is obtained in a variety of ways, such as walking and disturbing prey, searching among damp crevices or simply standing in the water and watching for movement.